British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in the Baltic Sea


This is one of the two largest ships of the British Navy, with a length of over 280 metres it can provide a platform for 40 aircraft and/or helicopters. HMS Prince of Wales is to take part in the upcoming NATO exercise – BALTOPS 22, whose host and ‘lead nation’ for the first time will be Sweden, a candidate for the alliance.

The North Atlantic Alliance’s BALTOPS 22 exercise in the Baltic Sea will begin on Sunday 5 June and will last almost two weeks. Fourteen countries will take part.

Apart from the UK, Sweden and Poland, they will be Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United States. Also invited are non-NATO countries Finland and Sweden, which have only recently applied for NATO membership, spurred on by the destabilisation of the situation in the region due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

A total of 45 ships, 75 aircraft and around 7,000 troops are expected to take part in the exercises.

The British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will be seen in the Baltic for the first time. The Queen Elizabeth-type ship was commissioned relatively recently – on December 10, 2019, after more than eight years of construction by the British shipyard Babcock Marine in Rosyth with the participation of cooperators in other parts of the UK. Also with the participation of Poles employed in the shipyards and even Polish companies – subcontractors.

The vessel, with a full 65,000 tonnes displacement and a crew of 1,450, can carry up to 35 F-35 fighters and four Merlin multi-role helicopters in strike mode. However, in the Baltic NATO exercises, HMS Prince of Wales will still appear “only” as a helicopter gunship – it is rumoured not to have the F-35B fighters planned for it on board.

The ship left the Portsmouth base on 23 May and switched off its AIS beacon signal shortly afterwards, so without access to other instruments, we are unable to determine its current location. However, she has most likely not yet entered the Baltic Sea. If it had already happened – the first ‘reports’ and photos from ship spotters e.g. from the Danish Straits would probably have appeared on social media, as well as reports in official media.

Last October, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenski visited the aircraft carrier.

How big is the ship?

For most ships, we do not know the gross tonnage (gross tonnage), because it is often not calculated for them. More often you can find information about the gross tonnage (allowing you to compare the volume with other ships and vessels) for newer ships. And this is the case for HMS Princes of Wales, for which the gross tonnage is 94,542.

This can be compared, for example, with one of the series of the three largest cargo ships in the Polish fleet today – kamsarmax bulk carriers like Tatry, with a gross tonnage of 43,025 and a deadweight of 82,138 tonnes. The Tatry has a displacement of 94,138 t (fully loaded, of course), while the same figure for the aircraft carrier in question is 65,000. The gross tonnage of the Polish ferry Polonia, on the other hand, is 29,875 tonnes. Finally, ships belonging to the largest container ships in the world that regularly call at the container terminal in Gdansk, such as the MSC Gulsun, have a gross tonnage of 232,618 with a carrying capacity of 228,149 tonnes.

The aircraft carrier is 282.90m long overall (and 255.90m long between perpendiculars). This can be compared with a length of 400 m or very similar (slightly less) for the large container ships above 20,000 TEU capacity that are regular visitors to Gdansk.

HMS Prince of Wales, as is usually the case on aircraft carriers, has an upper (flight) deck much wider than the main body of the hull, hence the difference: a maximum breadth of 69.00 m with a moulded breadth (“on frames”) of 38.80 m. The ship has a draught of 11.00 m and a moulded height of 29.30 m.



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